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Full text of "Medical Jurisprudence And Toxicology"

138                                             MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE

Putrefactive Changes

Time

1.  Very little change if water is cold.   Rigor mortis
may persist.

2.   The skin of the hands and feet becomes sodden
and bleached.   The face appears softened and has
a faded white colour.

3.   Face swollen and red.    Greenish discoloration on
eyelids, lips, neck and sternum.    Skin of hands
and   feet   wrinkled.     Upper   surface    of   brain
greenish in colour.

4.   Skin wrinkled.   Scrotum and penis distended with
gas.   Nails and hair still intact.   Lungs emphyse-
matous and cover the heart.

5.  Abdomen distended, skin of hands and feet comes
off with nails like a glove.

First four or five days.
From five to seven days.

One to two weeks.

Four weeks.

Six to eight weeks.

The above table applies to bodies immersed during winter in temperate
regions. Bodies immersed in summer undergo the same changes from three
to five or six times as rapidly as in winter, or even more quickly than that.

and crabs happen to be present in water, they destroy the soft
parts, and expose the bones in a very short time. On the 2nd June 1919,
a boy, about twelve years of age, was drowned in the Gomti at Lucknow.
On the 4th June, when the body was recovered, almost all the soft parts
had disappeared leaving the bones bare;

Floatation of a Body.: The gases of decomposition developed within a
submerged body cause it to rise to the surface, unless it is entangled in
weeds, ropes, or any other impediment. Ir^ India, a submerged body comes
to the surface within twenty-four hours iri^ummer, and within two to three
days or more (rarely more than a week) in winter.26 In temperate climes,
a submerged body floats in about a week in summer, and in about a fortnight
in winter. "The power of floatation of a decomposing body is so great, that
it may come to the surface in spite of its being weighted with a heavy stone.

Hehir27 records the interesting case of a woman who was murdered on a Friday
night in September 1883, and whose body was thrown into a well about midnight. On
the following Sunday at about 8 or 9 ajn. the body was found floating with a heavy
stone attached to it. The woman was of slight figure and short stature and while alive,
did not probably weigh more than 100 to 105 Ibs. The stone, the specific gravity of
which was 2.7, weighed 92 Ibs. It appears that decomposition in thirty hours was so
rapid as to generate gas capable of raising not only the body itself but the dead weight
attached to it. The stone was attached to the waist, and the body, when found, was
lying horizontally on the surface of the water on its side. The water in the well was
from ten to twelve feet in depth.

The period of floatation depends on the age, sex, condition of the body,
season, of the year and water.

Age.  The bodies of newly-born infants, if fully developed and well
nourished, float rapidly.

Sex.  Owing to the lightness of the bones and a greater proportion of
fat the bodies of women are of less specific gravity than those of men, and
therefore float sooner.

Condition of the Body.  Fatty bodies float quicker than lean and thin
bodies, as fat has a lower specific gravity. Bodies wearing loose clothes
will soon come to the surface.

Season of the Year.  The moist, hot air of summer is favourable to
putrefaction ; hence dead bodies float quicker in summer than in winter.

26.   Mackenzie, Ind. Med. Goz., May 1889, p. 131 : Chevers, Med. Juris,, p. 640.

27.    Outlines of Med. Juris., Ed. V, p. 56.